Recollections of a sparky

For years before becoming self employed I worked as a maintenance electrician, mostly in the textiles industry – which meant working morning and evening shifts and the night shift too as it was a 24 hour 7 day process.

The job meant I would appear, at some time or other, in all departments of the factory, to address some breakdown, blinking light or smoking appliance so almost every employee got to know who I was and what I did.
Every year at about this time (late November to early December) dozens of requests of “could you have a look at me Christmas lights please” would be made by hopeful faces as they handed over one of their precious illuminatory heirlooms remarking “they worked OK last year so there can’t be much wrong with ’em” and then the worried owner would trot off happily back to loom or spinning frame after being reassured “leave em on the bench luv and we’ll look at em later”

The bulk of the Xmas lights resurrection attempts were done on the 2 pm to 10pm shift,  6am to 2pm shift being far too populated with proper work and 9am to 5pm managers, supervisors and jobs’ worths – once 5pm had passed and the tea time meal break was done then it became “Save the fairy lights ” campaign.
Some of the lights sets had to condemned outright on safety grounds where there were more insulation tape then insulation and less series connected lamps than was safe after some bright family scientist member or friend had “by passed” enough open circuit lamps – telling the owner it was beyond redemption sometimes generated an emotional response akin to informing them they had a terminal illness and weeks to live …and they would go off in stunned silence.
Most of them though just needed replacement lamps of various sorts and their owners would mostly reclaim their mended possessions enquiring “how much do I owe you luv ?” – it was never an earner and we were getting paid anyway so the costs quoted usually merely covered the costs of the lamps etc. – but like the lamps it gave us a selfless glow of the Xmas spirit in helping 🙂

There was also the more year round and occasional “Do you rewire houses or put extra sockets in?” employee inquiry –  this was a more demanding scenario requiring an immediate judgement of deciding whether the enquirer would actually ever pay up or not and if positive usually resulted in a survey visit to the target property to make further assessments.
I only ever undertook one such project which in itself put me off any future ones.

Of course besides the Xmas lights and more major works there were a steady trickle of non heating clothes irons, non boiling kettles and asthmatic vacuum cleaners to do battle with, but that was back in the day when the build quality and prices of appliances meant they  were worth repairing and parts were readily available – today it’s bin it and buy a new one.

Believe it or not, renewing the motor in a Hoover Senior in the middle of a mind numbing night shift could help keep one sane.